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Experiences with FLIR cams?

Discussion in 'Electronics' started by bernd1972, Jan 20, 2021.

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  1. bernd1972

    bernd1972 Senior Member

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    I´m in the process of buying another boat after having sold my last one. Now this one is equipped with a technical gadget I´ve no experiences with: A FLIR camera. I never missed something like that, but I´m curious about opinions and experiences of other forum members.

    Now my question is if they are indeed a useful addition to the navigation equipment or just expensive stuff that breaks down expensively.
    Anyone who would share his/hers experiences with them here? Thanks in advance...
  2. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Like everything else it depends on how you use the boat. If you run at night a lot, and if you run from an enclosed PH yes it is very useful.

    but to make the most of it, you really need it on a fairly large screen.

    on the 84 skylounge I run, I have the FLIR output going to a full size monitor. During the day I use it for on board video camera and switch input to FLIR when I need to use it. In my opinion FLIR on a small MFD or worst on a split screen MFD is pretty useless
  3. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    Hallo again,

    What kind of FLIR system and what branch is it ? Is it a mobile system or fixed and intergrated into the Nav- system?

    FLIR is a great onboard system both on boats / ships and on planes, if coupled with the Nav / bridge systems. The Raymarine FLIR 300 / 400 / 500 for example can be coupled to the RADAR coursor, means if You track and lock on a radar return with Your radar, the FLIR system looks and focuses automatically to this point. A great feature for MOB and night operations.

    On bigger classed yachts it is almost neccessary for the safety and ease of operations. I have it both on my larger boat and on my larger aircraft. If You get used to it, You will not like to miss it ever again. Especially the IR head up display overlay in planes is great feature.

    Maintenance of FLIR systems, if made in the US, is pretty expensive, as the FLIR technology is export restricted by federal law. Simple IR systems with low resolution and low range are a nice gimmic but not worth the money spend on it. The more advance systems, especially the multi sensor systems are very expensive to buy and if the IR sensor is cryogenically cooled, the system has to be returned to the factory in pretty short regular intervals.

    My advice would be, use it as long as it works properly, if it breaks, sell it or throw it away. But check its calibration regulary.

    +1 on Pascals remarks.

    HTMO9
  4. mapism

    mapism Senior Member

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    It's VERY useful if it comes with a boat that you are buying, because after selling it on eBay you can use the money for something much more worth, like restocking your wine cellar.
    And depending on the exact model, you might even throw in some bottles of Cristal Roederer! :D

    PS: I'm saying this based on a first hand experience of being on watch at night, together with the boat owner who was keeping his eyes on the FLIR screen almost constantly, while helming the boat.
    And when we were on a collision course with a stand-on vessel whose red and white I clearly saw approaching on our stbd side with Mk1 eyeball, I had to warn him about that, because it was just outside the camera FoV and he saw nothing at all. :eek:
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
  5. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I will not own a boat that I might ever use at night without FLIR. I don't use it in place of other tools but in addition to them. In the example Mapism cites, radar would have been the primary tool. Where FLIR is of great benefit is if you ever find yourself entering a port or approaching a marina at night and also for getting starts on voyages at night.

    Also, if anchored at night, tremendous for checking what is going on around you. Even just docked if you hear sounds on the dock you feel the need to investigate.

    It's also useful in daytime as it picks up kayakers and paddleboarders well. And in MOB situations is a very useful tool for picking up the targeted MOB.

    In other ways, we use FLIR for searching for leaks of all types from air to water. Great tools for problem solving.
  6. mapism

    mapism Senior Member

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    Not really. In my example, the night was crystal clear, and in such conditions radar only comes second, after eyeball.
    Depending on sea conditions, a very small boat can be missed by the radar (been there), even if its navlights can still be easily spotted.
    In fog or any other low-vis conditions, then yes of course, radar becomes the primary tool.

    That said, I agree that in completely dark anchorages or a MOB situation, a thermal camera has its purpose.
    But not while cruising, where I wouldn't even bother turning it on if I had it on my boat.
    Overrated is the first adjective that springs to mind with FLIR, imho.

    PS: On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a tool like the Caterpillar S62 for checking all sort of onboard systems - in fact, I'm considering to get one - but that's a totally different kettle of fish, of course.
  7. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    I simply don't agree with your evaluation of overrated. Perhaps you never fully learned how to use it.
  8. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Again it depends on the boat. Open helm yes it s a gadget. Not needed. Enclosed pilothouse, yes.

    If anything it eliminates the need to use a spotlight to spot day markers, something which is at the very least rude to folks coming the other way. I also find that messing with a spotlight joystick to be a lot more distracting. Our home marina as a fairly long and narrow channel with only 2 lit markers out of a dozen. I almost never have to use the spotlights. Yea the radar helps heading in the right direction but once within a couple of hundred meters the FLIR is very useful. Again, when in an enclosed PH

    same in some of the unmarked narrow cuts in the Bahamas. I often come in Cat Cay cut at night and the FLIR makes it a lot easier when making the 90 degree turn along the tip of Gun Cay

    but like everything, it s a tool but not the only tool to use. Plotter and radar and most importantly the good ole fashion eye ball
  9. mapism

    mapism Senior Member

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    Well, maybe. By definition, I am unaware of what I don't know - I'm not different from any other other human being in this respect!
    And overrated or not is to a large extent a matter of personal viewpoint (and wealth!), anyway.
    I would call also the stuff that Roederer put in their bottles overrated, FWIW. :)

    But as long as you agree that it's pointless for "normal cruising" conditions, we aren't too far away, I reckon.
    Essentially, my point - as also the OP said, BTW - is that I never missed the thing, in the overwhelming majority of days of boating spent without it vs. just some spent with it. And I can't think of one single case in decades of boating, inclusive of both night cruising and anchoring, where I felt limited by not having a thermal camera.
    Each to their own, though.

    PS: nice to read that Pascal shares my view on eyeball relevance.
  10. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    From what HTM09 mentioned " as the FLIR technology is export restricted by federal law" I'd be careful about that.
  11. rtrafford

    rtrafford Senior Member

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    Well, I run with both a HD Flir for daytime and a thermal for nights. I rely heavily on radar, AIS, and my own eyes on the horizon, but having the Flir is a very comforting additional tool, very useful and great to have. I make several long runs overnight throughout the year, and I wouldn't want to go without it now that I have had it and benefitted from it. As Pascal stated I typically dedicate one of the displays on the helm to the camera view where it's on a large display. It provides an excellent additional reference for traffic, buoys, even crab pots.
  12. bernd1972

    bernd1972 Senior Member

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    Thanks to all of you for sharing your opinions and experiences. The device installed would most probably be the small 232 unit (expensive toy?) which the last owner installed after hitting a log at night at well suffucient speed to cause noticeable damage to one shaft and prop (repaired/replaced). From my perspective that probably hapened due to inandequate speed and perhaps somewhat toorelaxed watchkeeping, but i wasn´t aboard and for that reason cannot judge. Anyway, my opinion is that the money would probably have been spent better on a rebuilt of the sliding windows and some electrical stuff by Victron...

    @HTMO9: I guess the "budget" 232 unit (low resolution IR only) would qualify as gadget of only moderate practical value?

    However, I migth want to learn how to use it, though mapism´s suggestion of abusing it for stocking up the wine cellar has it´s charme as well... :D

    @Pascal: Do you use it on the vessel you run as captain odr do you have one on your fine old Hatt as well? And if not, would you consider installing one? I´ll most probably build a new radar arch for that vessel since the exixting one has some damage and looks a little flimsy anyway from my point of view. Because of that i was thinking whether it´s worth to build a socket for that right away or if it´s not worth the hassle.
    Boat is an old Hatt 58 YF, fortunatelly allready repowered with a pair of MAN engines.
  13. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    The 232 unit is not that low budget, if it is the M version. It is just low range. New it costs about 4.000,- Euro. But compared to the multi sensor M400 for 300.000,- Euros or the multi sensor cooled M500 for 500.000,- Euros it is a bargin :). As long as it works, I would use it. With its Joystick control and zoom function it is pretty practical. As long as it interfaces properly with Your Nav displays, keep and use it. Raymarine Germany or Nordwestfunk Emden can give You an estimate for a service of the unit, if its performance deteriorates.

    I would use it during night or bad visibility for identifying radar returns or shadowy sightings in joystick controlled search mode and in centerline locked mode with only changing magnification, when operating in close quarters. And keep in mind, the Mk I Eyeball is always the number one source of navigation. Keeping the the sensor clean from salt spray also helps a lot.
  14. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    I have it on the 84 Lazzara i run and being a skylounge it s a very useful tool as explained above.

    I don’t have one on my 53 and not even considering it since i always run from the open FB. Not needed. My old eyeballs work just fine :)

    i m not sure a log would be visible on these recreational FLIR unless it is dead calm and glassy
  15. HTMO9

    HTMO9 Senior Member

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    I agree with Pascal. Floating items in the water, especially when floating for longer times will not be recognized by this recreational FLIR systems unless You are quite close (if at all). For those minimal temperature differences, You will need a cooled IR sensor ($$$). But MOB will be visible pretty good. And anything is always better than nothing.
  16. bernd1972

    bernd1972 Senior Member

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    Guess the electronics guy was a pretty good salesman. The old owner is still pretty convinced that it was a good investment. Didn´t hit a log since the last time. But then I guess 18kts at night was a little fast anyway... :D
  17. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    9B97750B-2AD0-4AB2-AC77-C0E98C1F851E.jpeg 4129B79A-49C0-4B66-9405-FF8FFED3C6B3.jpeg Here are a few real world shots I took tonight.

    first one is at the dock. The spoil island is about 100/120 yards away

    second one is approaching the entrance to Miami Beach marina, breakwaters are showing very well which is good since the lights are out
  18. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Last two.

    first one was taken 1/4 mile (measured by radar) from the two day markers

    second one shows a marker at close range and a sunken mast less sailboat tied to it

    note that under certain conditions, hot humid muggy nights, visibility and contrast can be less than half of what it was tonight

    04C8261E-B386-475C-8A8B-8F6A2177B2B4.jpeg 4A2615AE-8222-4E03-87F7-A15F01E3E7BE.jpeg
  19. bernd1972

    bernd1972 Senior Member

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    Ok, that´s pretty useable. I´m inpressed!
  20. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Again that s on a full size monitor. Put the image on a smaller screen and these day markers at 1/4 mile will not be visible